Antibiotics and acid suppressants in early childhood linked to obesity, study shows

Leslie Hanson
November 2, 2018

Prescription of antibiotics and acid-suppressing medications in early childhood is associated with an increased risk for obesity, according to a study published online october 30 in Gut.

The drugs may alter the composition of bacteria in the gut, known as the microbiome, researchers said.

Antibiotics and acid suppressant medications can alter the type and number of bacteria present in the gut. Some 72.5 per cent had been prescribed an antibiotic, just under 12 per cent... Some 5868 children were prescribed all three types of drug.

Some 46,993 (just over 14%) children became obese, of whom 9628 (11%) had not been prescribed any antibiotics or acid suppressants.

Researchers also calculated that youngsters were 26% more likely to be diagnosed with childhood obesity if they had been prescribed an antibiotic.

The survey showed there was a particular risk for boys and for children born by caesarean section, who are believed to miss out on important gut bacteria transferred through the birth canal.

To study the potential relationship between taking these kinds of drugs in early childhood and the development of obesity, the researchers analysed medication prescribed to 333,353 children aged between zero and two between 2006 and 2013. There was an association between antibiotic prescriptions and obesity (hazard ratio, 1.26).

Because the study is observational it can not establish cause but the authors wrote: "We found that outpatient prescriptions for antibiotics and acid-suppressing medications within the first two years of life are associated with the development of early childhood obesity". And potentially influential information on how much the children's mothers weighed, and whether they smoked or had other underlying conditions wasn't available.

Study author Dr Christopher Stark, of William Beaumont Army Medical Centre in Texas, said: "There is an important therapeutic role for microbiota-altering medications".

But they also point out that over prescription of both antibiotics and acid suppressants, including in young children, is "a significant problem".

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